Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Food
The most important survival thing after a first aid kit and then water, is food. Even though we could survival for 20 or maybe more days without food, no one wants to test that out. If you are sitting still, in a well protected shelter, you might survive the 20 days without food but I suspect that if you need to walk to a safe place, or expend energy to rescue someone or just shore up your own shelter, plus rummage the neighborhood for needed supplies, then I think that you will be burning a lot of calories every day and reaching 20 days without food is unlikely.
In our emergency disaster preparedness plan we really do need to have a long life emergency food supply in our home, our cars, school and place of work. I have never trusted any company that I have worked for to care enough for its employees to have a proper food supply so I have always had my own emergency supply. As I moved up in those various companies I discovered that they in fact did not have any emergency supplies at all. Yes, they might have a very small first aid kit and an eye wash, as demanded by OSHA, an they might even have a DRP/BCP plan as is now require for publicly traded companies under SOx regulation, but they only focus on protecting the computers that store financial data, they don’t bother stockpiling food or water for you. Check it out for yourself and let me know what your own situation actually is.
You only need 10 times your body weight (numerically), in calories per day to survive [if you are 150 pounds, then 10 X 150 = 1,500 calories], you should have an awareness of how many calories each long life survival food option offers and ration it wisely. Eating fresh fruits vegetables, etc. are the best nutrition but by definition a disaster means that this may be something that is not immediately available. Its best to have 800 to 2500 calories a day in spread out nutritionally balanced meals, if the situation affords you that luxury. That might not always be true. Drink plenty of clean water, its the first think to take you down if you’re not focused on hydrating. If you have access to vitamin and mineral supplements, take them when appropriate and read the labels for proper dosing.
Its unrealistic to think that yo will be able to get by, by thinking that a few cans of tuna fish and/or a few cans of condensed soup will carry you through a disaster. I know, I relied on this plan during the Blizzard of 1977 and I can tell you firsthand that you quickly tire of eating the same two meals over and over again. The next problem is that condensed soup needs water and heat, of which we had neither. I added a can of distilled water that I had actually purchased for the battery in my car, stirred it and consumed that soup cold, very reluctantly. After that event I did not eat canned soup or tuna fish for over a decade. Yes, its that traumatic.
Additionally, everyone thinks that tuna fish in a can will last forever. It won’t. It only is good for up to 9 months past the date on the can (canned soup is only good for a year after the printed date on the can has expired). Think about it, what happens with emergency food supplies is that you put them in your secure locations and the trunk of your car then you forget about it for ten to twenty years. That is what happens to everyone. Still think that yo will eat a can of tuna fish ten to fifteen years after its safe use lifespan has expired. I won’t.
This is why in addition to some canned food supplies, that we keep in reserve and rotate into our normal eating supplies, we also have long life supplies that actually stand a chance of being OK if they have been forgotten for fifteen years.
In: 3 week emergency supplies; Out: 3 day emergency supplies
Remember to date all your emergency supplies so you can rotate them and ensure that you don’t exceed its useful life, when you nee it most.
The FDA Does Not Require Food Dates The answer to questions about food dating and food dates are inconsistent possibly due to the fact that – there are no rules! That’s right, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does NOT require manufacturers to place any dates on food products! “This information is entirely at the discretion of the manufacturer.” Furthermore, “with the exception of infant formula, the laws that the FDA administers do not preclude the sale of an item that is past the expiration date indicated on the label.” To put it simply, here are some interesting facts you may not know about the “shelf life” (i.e. the best before date, use by date, sell by date, eat by date) on food: Food Can Be Sold After Date Expires – Stores are not legally required to remove food from the shelf once the expiration date has passed. The expiration dates are strictly “advisory” in nature and are left entirely to the discretion of the manufacturer, thus not truly indicative of an items true Shelf Life. Food Dates Are Not Required By Law – With the exception of infant formula and baby food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require food companies to place dates on their food products. The only requirement is that the food is wholesome and fit for consumption. Laws Vary By State – States have varying food dating laws. For example, many states require that milk and other perishables be sold before the expiration date, while others do not.
MRE is a popular choice for those that want something with a long shelf life (5 years, to as much as 20 years if its stored in absolutely ideal conditions, mostly at cooler but not freezing temperatures). The US Military invented the MRE as a replacement to soldier’s C-Rations and K-Rations. The MRE is a retort, i.e. a meal sealed in a pouch that can be eaten without heating. (This is a complete balanced meal with lots of calories). It is what our soldiers use for food when they are in the field without kitchens. Because its packaged in a tough plastic-foil-plastic layered pouch its a great choice for backpacks and some folks even store them in the trunk of all their cars.
|MRE Shelf Life (Based on taste testing at U.S. Army’s NATICK Research Laboratories)|
Storage Temperature (Fahrenheit)
Storage Life in Months (and years)
22 Months (1.8 yrs)
55 Months (4.5 yrs)
60 Months (5 yrs)
76 Months (6.3 yrs)
88 Months (7.3 yrs)
100 Months (8.3 yrs)
130+ Months (10.8+ yrs)
The shelf life figures given in the table for MREs are based on taste test studies conducted by the U.S. Army’s NATICK Research Laboratories. This study was conducted by NATICK without participation of the MRE manufacturers. As such, the manufacturer cannot verify the test procedures used by the NATICK labs, nor do they adopt these shelf life figures as a guarantee of any sort. The data is useful, though, as a general indication of the effects of storage temperatures on the shelf life of MRE-type food products.
Some consumers have reported that their MREs have been completely edible after 15 or 20 years in cool storage. There is no way to validate their claims but I have eaten the pound cake from one of my own 15 year old MREs and it was just fine. It wasn’t gourmet food, more like cafeteria food but perfectly serviceable. The set of the food in the MRE pouch were perfectly edible if a bit boring, I’d certainly eat it in a disaster situation.
A new variation in MRE technology arrived in 2012, the U.S. First Strike Rations (FSRs), a compact, eat-on-the move ration concept from the United States Army, designed to be consumed during the first 72 hours of conflict, created by the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts. These look to be an interesting meal in a pouch that I will be looking into more in the near future.
MREs offer huge calories (approximately 1200 per MRE) and in a time of stress offer you a hot meal (if you buy and carry the individual heaters, or are able to sit them in boiling water for a while), which is very comforting. They are high on carbs (13% protein, 36% fat, and 51% carbohydrates) but keep in mind that they are designed as fuel for an active soldier who needs a lot of quick energy.
MREs are pre-cooked and can be eaten safely without heating, in fact they are only heated to provide you comfort or keep you from freezing.
For me one, at my weight, one MRE satisfies nearly an entire day’s worth of calories, so I intend to keep that in mind in case I have to ration myself. I also want to keep myself light on my feet and eating three MREs a day is likely to make me sluggish and lackadaisical and in the long term it will make me unnecessarily fat. I’m in a very temperate climate, the colder it gets the more calories you need. By the time it gets to freezing, I’m probably doubling my caloric intake if I’m shoveling snow or trudging through snow and ice. Know your needs and limits.
The old rule of thumb that you needed 2,500 calories a day (2,500 KiloCalories of you want to be precise) is just incorrect. The latest rule of thumb is that you need 10 times your weight per day to maintain an even weight. So if you weight 150 pounds, you only need 1,500 calories a day. If you eat more then you gain weight, if you eat less then you’ll lose weight (in the long term), so you can see that these MREs contain a gigantic amount of calories to keep you alive. That, their long lifespan and tough triple layer pouch is what makes them popular.
I suspect the source of the extra carbs are the dessert items (cookie, cake, crackers bread) plus pasta and rice in the entree, so if you are a bit concerned about the extra carbs just eat the entree and save the rest for later or to trade with someone.
There are many different MRE menus available, check with a legitimate civilian MRE supplier (I use TheEpiCenter.com) and see what fresh choices they have in stock. Don’t be shy about asking about the manufacture dates and contents of the specific MREs you are about to order and check the date when you get them. Civilian MREs don’t have the same exact content as military MREs, often they come without heaters and other items, depending on manufacturer. It might be worth it to pay a little more and get exactly what you want. Buying MREs is all about time, you are paying an insurance policy to give you extended survival time.
A sample MRE contains roughly the following (details change annually): Entree – the main course, such as Spaghetti or Beef Stew Side dish – rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes, etc. Cracker or Bread Spread – peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread Dessert – cookies or pound cakes Candy – M&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls Beverages – Gatorade-like drink mixes, cocoa, dairy shakes, coffee, tea Hot sauce or seasoning – in some MREs Flameless Ration Heater – to heat up the entree Accessories – spoon, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc. 3 MREs offer all the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals
Some vendors will offer just the MRE portion of an MRE. I think that this would be a good choice for situations that are space limited (like in my backpack). This is a no frills option that has no dessert or crackers or peanut butter or bread, not even a spoon, but its barely one third the size of a normal MRE so its rather compact.
Soldier Fuel ™ Energy Bars
Soldier Fuel™ was originally developed to help soldiers augment their daily caloric intake when in combat. It was found that during combat, soldiers would not eat their expected rations which might not be good for them. The HOOAH! Bar was developed which was then commercialized in the form of Soldier Fuel™. They are small, contain 280 calories per bar and feature a three year shelf life.
For disaster preparedness purposes I’d prefer to see a much longer shelf life so we would not have to rotate them so often, three years is just too short. My preference is for food products that we can forget about for ten to 15 years or more so we know that we can always rely on them. (Obviously if your emergency foods are stored in warmth, its not going to survive as long, but I suspect that the three year shelf life is also going to be shortened in that circumstance.)
Humanitarian Daily Rations (HDR) (Vegetarian emergency rations)
The original requirement for the HDR was based on a need for a means of feeding large populations of displaced persons or refugees under emergency conditions. The HDR is similar in concept to the MRE as it is composed of similar food components and long life packaging materials as the MRE. However, the similarity ends there. The components are designed to provide a full day’s sustenance to a moderately malnourished individual. In order to provide the widest possible acceptance from the variety of potential consumers with diverse religious and dietary restrictions from around the world, the HDR contains no animal products or animal by-products, except that minimal amounts of dairy products are permitted. Alcohol and alcohol based ingredients are also banned. Yes, HDR can be a vegetarian emergency food supply. The better suppliers will have documented all this information so you can check it out for yourself, but the bottom line is that for vegetarians the HDR could be an ideal choice for a disaster preparedness food supply.
The United States airlifts HDRs to anywhere in the world where we are deploying humanitarian support so the menus vary quite a bit and the food is edible by anyone from any religious or ethnic group. This also means that trying to figure out exactly what is in each case of HDR meals is confusing to impossible but since its intended for an emergency, I suggest that you just vary the menu each time to ad a case o your emergency supply and you should wind up with a good variety.
HDR is also different in that one package is one day’s worth of calories, which os convenient since MRE’s are packaged to require tree MRE per day. MRE’s have a bit more stuff in them since they are designed for daily use whereas HDR is truly designed for disasters. I think that HDR could be a good choice for everyone, but at this time they are difficult to find. The normal reliable and reputable retail MRE vendors typically do not have HDR in stock and when they do they might be a few years old. Since they last a long time this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you can store them away from heat.
HDR is also unusual (besides being vegetarian) in that there is an expiration indicator on the side of the case in the form of an orange dot. The meals are considered usable as long as the center has not yet turned black. This dot is temperature sensitive so if you can keep the HDR rations in a relatively cool place then I suspect that they could last as long as an MRE and the indicator dot will help you see that for yourself.
Variety is key to survival. Its more practical to collect a little of many different food stuffs that too much of one. With only one food choice you’ll be miserable and not want to eat after the second or third. Thats why MREs are so attractive, they come in a variety of different meal plans so if you buy one case a year, it will give you a source of variety. Of corse, I supplement the MREs with as many other choices as I can. Don’t forget to pack a variety of dry spices to give you more flexibility, but don’t put anything in storage that you don;t know how to cook (or use). That said I do have a few items that were given to me that I put in storage because I thought they would be good trade items, but I didn’t pay anything for them.
Also occasionally available are MRE Tray Packs, these are intended to feed 9-12 people at a time and sound interesting if you have a lot of people to feed. I’ve not tried them and they are only labeled as having a three year shelf life so it seems that its intended purpose is more immediate rather than long term. I note them here because I think that there are some folks out there that will figure out clever ways to extend the life of these extra large trays.
I did just open a 15 year old MRE and ate the lemon pound cake. It looked indifferently baked, but it smelled fine and tasted OK. It reminded me of the food we ate at the school cafeteria, so actually it wasn’t bad at all, it was humble, not gourmet but very welcome in a time of need. I ate the whole thing. This was positive enough for me to go ahead and try the vegetable crackers and grape jelly, which was decent. The grape jelly tasted normal, the crackers had flavor and although they were super dry, they were completely edible and I’d have no problem eating these old supplies in case of a disaster.
If you get anything else other than MREs, do try to balance your intake of food to approximately 30% Carbs 30% Fats 40% Protein, so you won’t get sick due to malnutrition. Food with a lot of sodium (salt) will make you excessively thirsty and cause you to consume your critically valuable, precious and limited, water supply. Of course, in a disaster you have to deal with what you have or can find.) MREs are military grade sealed meals (in a variety of menus) that are so well protected that they can last 5 to 20 years depending upon the storage temperature and who you ask (colder but not below 38 degrees is best). It comes in a tough mylar and aluminum foil wrapper to resist oxygen and pest intrusion. Purchase MREs that are intended for civilian use only (in tan wrapper), the military MREs are identical but in OD (olive drab green) wrappers and are illegal to sell because they are purchased with tax dollars to feed soldiers. Check the date of manufacture, many surplus stores sell old stock and most are highly overpriced. Get fresh, civilian MREs from TheEpiCenter.com, I’ve been buying MREs from him for 25 years now and have always been very happy with him.
I’ve depended on MREs for my family’s security for 20 years, but now have a new favorite, New Millennium bars. There energy bars offer 400 calories each, come in a variety of flavors (that have gotten excellent reviews from everyone), are not salty (you don’t need to be extra thirsty during a disaster, are small and most importantly they are individually wrapped.
New Millennium bars and Coast Guard Approved Datrex Emergency Survival Food Rations
Unlike the Coast Guard Approved Datrex Emergency Survival Food Ration, which the New Millennium bars descended from, New Milennium are individually wrapped, offering a normal eating experience in a compact package the size of a candy bar. Coast Guard Approved Datrex Emergency Survival Food Rations come in a block so once you open it to eat one square, the entire package loses its 5 year rating. I like the Coast Guard Approved Datrex Emergency Survival Food Rations because they are designed for extremely harsh marine environments which are far more severe than anything I can imagine. New Millennium offers the tough Coast Guard approved package, better taste and a variety of nine different flavors. When you consider how compact they are compared to an MRE, you can see that they offer the best space and usability tradeoff we have today.
The candy bar wrappers, in bright colors is very appealing, its seems normal and attractive, something I value during stressful situations.
I bought a case and split them between my wife’s car and mine. That is how much I like them. Sure, we still have unexpired Coast Guard Approved Datrex Emergency Survival Food Rations in the cars, they are perfectly fine, no need to get rid of them, and we still have MREs in the house, I think that maybe having an assortment of choice could make surviving a disaster a bit more comfortable.
Amazon: Millennium Bars Assorted 24-Pack
Coast Guard Approved Emergency Survival Food Rations (mad by various companies) is a classic emergency food, like MREs, but are certified for marine use. I figure that if its good enough for marine use its good enough for me. This is what I have in the BOB in each car along with 1-3 MRE entrees (just get the MRE entree because its much smaller than the huge “complete MRE”).
A good US Coast Guard Approved product could be the: ER Emergency Ration 2400+ Calorie, 5-Year Emergency Food Bar (ERbar) because in addition to being made in California, according to the manufacturer’s website:
- Unlike competitors’ food bars, ER™ Bars contains no cholesterol, tropical oils, or coconut, or nuts which may cause dangerous allergic reactions when no medical aid is available
- USCG approved hermetic sealing process using corrosion-resistant material that meets the MIL-131 Barrier Materials Standards
- Patented non-thirst provoking formula
- Guaranteed 5-year shelf-life
- Safest and most reliable survival food ration on the market
- Guaranteed 3-day survival food supply
- Optimum combination of moisture, salt, carbohydrate, protein, and fat
- Unlike “Meals-Ready-to-Eat” (MREs), ER™ Bars don’t require water
- Unlike competition, packaging features re-sealable pouch
- 6 individual, pre-measured rations; 2 per day
- Ready-to-use Survival Food Bars
- As Recommended By US Dep’t of Homeland Security
- Approved By United States Coast Guard
- Approval #: 160.026/73/0
- Meets International Coast Guard & SOLAS 7483 Requirements
Note that these emergency rations are usually sold in a block that supplies 2400 or 3600 calories (they are both labeled as a 72 hour supply of food, presumably for smaller and larger people). Although this product is called a “bar”, its the same as their competitor’s 2,400 or 3,600 calorie block, because they are also cut into bars.
Since we only need ten times our body weight in calories per day to not gain weight (ex: a 150 pound person would only need 10×150 or no more than 1,500 calories a day). The 3600 calorie version would work just fine as a three day supply, being close to normal caloric intake. In an emergency the 2400 would work fine as a three day supply, being a bit lower in calories but a lot lighter in weight and 50% smaller in your emergency pack. I’d probably carry two or either size product, just to make sure that I could help whoever is with me to survive. If I was alone then I would gave a six day supply, which would be nice. In a pinch, I would eat a bit less to stretch out my food supply because you can last a lot longer (20 days) without food but you can only survive 3 to 4 days without water. I would focus on getting plenty of water and if necessary, stretching out my food supply.
Survival bars like Mainstay are similar to the Coast Guard Approved Datrex Emergency Survival Food Ration but are individually wrapped as bars (like candy bars). Some vendors have flavors available, none of these are gourmet food, their intention is to keep you alive. I once survived in a foreign country on bars similar to these, that my wife had stuck into my belt pack, until we could make it to a small village to resupply, trust me, I didn’t care what they tasted like, I was grateful to have them so I could survive.
Emergency food for Dogs: ER Emergency Ration Dry Dog Food for Survival Kits and Disaster Preparedness
Emergency food for Cats: ER Emergency Ration Dry Cat Food for Survival Kits and Disaster Preparedness
Survival Tablets By Food Reserves Inc.
Are a nutritional supplement, they are not a source of food and have negligible calories. For me, the space they take up in my emergency disaster preparedness pack would be better served with any of the emergency foods (MRE, HDR, Coast Guard Approved survival rations, Millennium bars, etc.) so that I could actually live off this food supply.
I have contacted the manufacturer and they told me that these are intended to offer the bare minimum of nutritional subsistence, so I understand that to mean that they are essentially a vitamin supplement with a tiny bit of calories in them. The calorie count is so low that I would be looking for an MRE or Millennium or Coast Guard bar to survive on, but if there was nothing else, I would take these Survival Tabs just to keep my minimal vitamin levels up.
I don’t recommend these as a primary source of nutrition and instead tell my family and friends to focus on building up their MRE, HDR, Cost Guard rations and Millennium bar supplies and only after they have a satisfactory amount should they consider stocking these.
Survival Tablets NUTRITION FACTS
Mountain House (freeze dried)
Is a favorite of campers, it is dehydrated so just mix contents with boiling water in pouch- let stand, and serve. They are tasty (MREs are now also quite tasty, the government has been working on really improving them for the past few years) but Mountain House requires boilng water to consume. Mountain House has a seven year shelf life if you keep temperatures below 75 degrees (might not be optimal for a BOB in the car).
HeaterMeals are a sort of variation of an MRE that is specifically intended for civilians (both are in retort packages). It looks essentially like a frozen dinner, in a paper tray, so it has he appeal that it looks nicer than eating out of an MRE pouch. Although they try to complete with MREs I see them coming up short in a few areas.
First, HeaterMeals have a shorter shelf life than MREs, except for the HeaterMeals EX which could be as long as an MRE.
HeaterMeals Shelf Life
HeaterMeals Ex Entrees Up to 5 years, based on the production date HeaterMeals 3 Self-Heating Meal Kits Up to 3 Years, based on the production date HeaterMeals Entrees Up to 2 years, based on the production date HeaterMeals Plus Self-Heating Meal Kits Up to 1 year, based on the production date
Next, they are lower in calories than an MRE despite having 50% bigger meals. Although its true that you could make a statistical argument that HeaterMeals devote more calories to healthier nutritional components, there are no facts to prove that this is important or makes a difference. In a disaster I want enough calories to keep me alive and keep me going, MREs could give me as much as 600 calories more per day which I think is important during this critical time. If you just don’t need that many calories then just eat two MREs a day and that will stretch out your survival time by 50%.
Finally, I find that HeaterMeals cost more than MREs (by the case) so it just does not make sense to me.
Heating any of our self-heating meals is easy: First tear open the heater bag. Place the meal in the bag against the heater pad. Pour the provided salt water pouch into the bag to start the heater. Fold the opening over and use the tape on the bag to keep it closed. Place the meal in the heater bag on a heat-safe surface.
I am not a member of LDS Church but I have a deep respect for the effort they put into disaster preparedness for their members and I also appreciate that they share this information publicly. A nice way to build up your supply of emergency bulk food stores at low cost is to visit a nearby LDS Cannery (look them up on the ProvidentLiving website (Home Storage Center Locations)). (If you find any place similar or better, let me know so I can add it to this list.) The LDS website also has an excellent page on selection packing and storage of food that can last 30 plus years. Its direct and to the point, a worthy read.
The longest lasting foods listed in the Dry Foods section below all come from the LDS cannery, in addition to the food being dry, it must also be in a sealed container and that container must contain an O2 aborber packet in it, that is the obly way these foodstuffs will last that long. Just buying a bag of a dry food from the supermarket and throwing it in your pantry will not work, just ask anyone that has had moths or mold attack their dry goods after a few months, they’ll tell you of the need to have properly sealed containers (not store packaging for maximum shelf life.
The LDS canneries offer wonderful canned products in sealed #10 cans that each have a packet of oxygen absorber in it. It just doesn’t get any better than this. My favorites are their rice and beans because they can last 30 years.
LDS Online Store (buy your Home Storage food supplies here if there are no nearby canneries)
LDS Preparedness Manual (you may purchase a bound book or you may download a free PDF version in exchange for your email address. They will send you one email offering a discount towards their paid disaster preparedness forum). The beginning of the manual is church oriented, but if you persevere you’ll get to the good parts.
Another possibility is Auguson Farms, they have a wide variety of pre-made emergency supply kits, ranging from three day to one year supplies. Its already in containers and can reach up to 30 year shelf life. This makes it so easy to buy then just put the kit away in your closet or outdoors shed and you are all set to sleep peacefully at night.
They also offer a free shipping deal which really helps stretch your dollars (especially important with the larger, heavier kits).
Auguson Farms is one of the supporters of this site and I’d greatly appreciate it of you click my ad to get to their store, so I may get a modest commission from them, a true win-win partnership.
One very important survival strategy when trapped in the wild for extended periods of time is to not just eat protein, i.e. animal flesh, all the time. Survival instructors teach that this could lead to Protein Alkalosis1 , where you blood turns so alkaline that you get seriously ill. Our disaster preparedness survival strategies are based on many disciplines one of which is wilderness survival so this can apply to us directly.
Survival schools teach special forces units to eat the other parts of the animals they catch so they an avoid this condition but in our case we know that we can’t train the average citizen to do that so we need supplementation such as Fish Oil.
Review of Nordic Naturals Fish Oil
So what do I do? Supplement with fish oil supplements, of course. My classic favorite is Nordic Naturals, who offers a variety of excellent choices for your specific needs. For years I used Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega which reduced my joint pain (doctors told me it was arthritis and to suck it up, now I don’t have to suck anything), its make my skin moist which is important here with the dry weather, we constantly battle dry skin.
After using this product for so many years that I just can’t recall when I first started it, I can say that when on extended business trips and I get to lazy to pack my supplements, my joint pain returns and my skin get s super dry. I also suspect that my brain function is far superior when taking fish oil supplements so I now always pack my fish oil whenever I travel.
WebMD: Findings show omega-3 fish oil may help to:
In our disaster preparedness kit at home and the BOB in each car there is now packed plenty of extra Nordic Naturals fish oil supplements with the medical supplies. Why with medical? Because I constantly rotate anything that is perishable, putting the newest purchases into the kist them consuming was has been in the kit for the past month.
Unless you are stationed in Antarctica you will probably experience sufficiently high heat that will shorten the shelf life of your perishables. They are necessary for your health and in disaster scenarios we tend to get stressed and stop taking our supplements, I sincerely believe that is a mistake because that is when we need our supplements to support us the most.
Studies2 have for while concluded that fish oil (Omega 3, Omega 6) is beneficial to avoid or reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and for that reason alone its worth it to take this supplement every day.
Please donate today to the Alzheimer’s Association in my father’s name, much of my survival skills I learned from him.
My favorite fish oil supplement is Coromega Omega 3 Squeeze. It comes in very small foil packets, you just squeeze it into your mouth, its somewhat creamy like a pudding, tastes great (orange, chocolate, etc.) and leaves no fish oil aftertaste. My favorite feature of this product is that it really works to soothe my joint pain in my knees (to the loin that I no longer feel it), so its earned a permanent place in my diet. I keep a three month supply in stock at home at all times.
Dehydrated & Canned Foods
Spam (Shelf Life is 2-5 years past the expiration date on the can, it does not last forever, don’t forget to rotate it).
Beans, dried. The Shelf Life for dried beans is Indefinite, which is why its a favorite of those who are prepared. Canned beans have a shelf life of only one year. I store my dried beans in a clear airtight container (food grade bucket) that has a good o-ring seal in the lid and sturdy latches (and yes, as soon as I remember I will put a fresh oxygen absorber into it from now on). I store it inside a closet so its not exposed to any elements, especially sun or water, but I glance at it once a week when I go into that closet to stock supplies (its part pantry, part winter wardrobe).
Yes, I know that some folks will complain about beans giving them gas, here are a few solutions:
- Cook the beans thoroughly, that might mean overcooking them slightly, or soaking them in water for 24 hours, whatever works for you.
- Take some charcoal capsules from the medical kit. These do work to absorb gas but take a bot of time to work, but at least you’ll get a good night’s sleep. In an emergency situation I would resist using them in case there is a real medical emergency but its useful for a day or two until you lean how to cook the beans properly.
- Deal with it. As long as you don’t put your back towards the cam fire while you are sleeping, you’ll survive it, its not as toxic as every makes it seem to be.
Food grade buckets are made of PET plastics that do not leech or off-gas chemicals into your food and are impervious to penetration by oxygen.
Tip: Food grade buckets are thrown away by supermarkets and bakeries every day. Make friends with the manager and usually they will be happy if you take them away so they can lower their garbage hauling costs. Some stores have wizened up and started recycling them but keep searching and you could find a free source. Get Gamma Seal Lids if you want an easy way to open and close them (the typical lids that come with these buckets can be very difficult for the inexperienced person to open and close).
Oatmeal, various types including instant oatmeal (bit not the flavored ones) can last up to three years (flavored/cream oatmeal only lasts up to 9 months). The best way to store oatmeal is to get it canned from the LDS church cannery, theirs lasts 30+ years. This is an excellent source of energy and because of its high fiber content it slows the metabolism of the carbs (a good thing) so your body will bun them instead of of turning them to fat.
Honey lasts essentially forever if in the original jar and has been stored reasonably well. Its possible for it to last your lifetime. (Jam only lasts 2 years, Butters like Apple butter and Pumpkin butter only last 2 months to 2 years so they don’t qualify for inclusion in our emergency supplies pantry). If honey crystalizes on you, its still OK, just warm it up and it will become a lovely thick syrup again.
Maple Syrup also lasts forever, easily your lifetime, if properly bottled and stored. I like genuine US or Canadian made Maple syrup, I still think its the best I’ve ever had and I like to support local producers. This is another item I’ll be storing a few extra of in the future. Gathering maple syrup was pioneered y our Native American ancestors so its essentially part our heritage and tradition.
The reason that honey and maple syrup lasts indefinitely is that they are almost pure sugar, sugar is hygroscopic, absorbing water that comes in contact with it. No water means that bacteria can’t grow.
Important tip about honey. Only buy raw honey that you know for a fact was produced locally (there is no need to pasteurize honey because it already has infinite shelf life and pasteurization is believed to break down some of the desired nutrients i the honey). First it will have pollen from your local flowers so its good for your immune system, secondly, if you buy cheap non-local honey its likely to come from China where there is no quality control and the honey is mixed with undesirable substances [Food Safety News]. How do we know this is happening? U.S. scientists were performing routine testing, checking the DNA in honey and found that a lot of honey had no DNA at all. This is unnatural and impossible unless humans have process and ultra-filtered the honey to remove the pollen, which is the source of DNA in honey. It subsequently came out that Chinese were illegally dumping tainted honey in the US after having been caught and banned from selling their honey in Europe. Its technically illegal for China to do this but the FDA just does not have the funding to stop this right now. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish, buy local honey and be certain that is really is from your local producers.
I always have a glass jar of my local honey in storage and am considering a few more. If I get terribly desperate I can survive on honey alone for a few days, if I’ve already exhausted all other supplies. Its also a good item for trade and in a disaster situation, honey can be placed on wounds to help them heal, I’d prefer medical honey but if the situation demanded it and I’m all out of other supplies, then I’ll use honey.
Honey is a great substitute for first aid antiseptics (hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, triple antibiotic ointment, etc.) according to Dr Oz. Its used in the medical profession to this day because honey will seal up a wound (blocking further contamination), prevent a scab from forming (speeds healing), and it produces hydrogen peroxide naturally at the wound site.
Additional, according to Dr Oz, honey has been found in clinical testing to work better than store bought cough suppressants and he also recommends a spoonful of honey in a cup of very warm (not boiling) water with a quarter lemon for common winter illnesses.
According to Dr Sears: “Surgeons use it to heal wounds from burns and cuts. Plastic surgeons use honey to fix skin grafts in place and prevent complications, such as graft loss, infection and graft rejection.3 Honey can heal acne, and help make post-acne scarring and inflammation disappear.
Honey encourages your skin to make hyaluronic acid (HA). HA fills out your skin because it absorbs 3,000 times its weight of water. Honey also forms a delicate, mesh-like collagen structure that can bring your skin’s surface back to normal and allow it to heal.4,5
You can also use honey for other skin problems like diaper rash, hemorrhoids, psoriasis, eczema and dandruff. And it’s antibacterial, too.
Honey works well against bacteria for two reasons. The first is that its sugars bind to water molecules. This denies bacteria the moisture they need to grow.
The second is a secret ingredient added by bees. It’s an enzyme called glucose oxidase. It helps stop bacteria by increasing hydrogen peroxide, a natural disinfectant.6
Honey is also deadly to the “superbug” bacteria you may have heard about recently. Mixtures that have as little as 40 percent honey kill all the harmful bacteria. Even the newest bacterial threat, gram-negative bacteria, can’t stand up to honey. In one study, researchers used only 30 percent mixture on the five known gram-negative strains and honey killed all of those, too.7
Honey is also a super-antioxidant for skin.
Antioxidants protect skin from UV radiation damage, and aid in skin rejuvenation.
Darker honeys have high ORAC values. The ORAC scale was designed to help compare the antioxidant power of different foods. The higher the ORAC value, the more power it has to stop free-radical damage and help fight off health problems.
A study at the University of Illinois found that some of the darker honeys measure 50% higher on the ORAC scale that even grapes with their high-powered skins.8
Scientists are even developing new alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) skin treatments from honey.
Why is that so important? These acids from fruits and plants work with the slight acidity of your skin to help it exfoliate naturally. AHA helps remove old skin cells by dissolving the fatty deposits that hold them in place, which allows new healthy skin to emerge.
With all the ways your skin can benefit from honey, it’s a good idea to keep some in your house. I keep a jar of raw, organic Manuka honey from New Zealand in my pantry, but any of the darker honeys are good for skin care.
If I get a cut or a scrape, I just put some honey right on the wound and cover it with a bandage or dressing. The honey will diffuse into the wound. Then I just change the bandage when I put on more honey.
1. Bakhotmah B, Alzahranicor H. “Self-reported use of complementary and alternative medicine … Jeddah, Western Saudi Arabia.” BMC Res. Notes. 2010; 3:254 2. ÅariÄ-KundaliÄ B, Fritz E, DobeÅ C, et. al. “Traditional Medicine in the Pristine Village of ProkoÅko Lake on Vranica Mountain, Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Sci. Pharm. 2010; 78(2): 275–290 3. Emsen I. “A different and safe method of split thickness skin graft fixation: medical honey application,” BurnsSept. 2007;33(6):782-7 4. McPherson J, Piez K. “Collagen in dermal wound repair,” In: Clark R, Henson P. The Molecular and Cellular Biology of Wound Repair. New York: Plenum Press, 1988 5. “Why do some cavity wounds treated with honey or sugar paste heal without scarring?” Woundcare Journal 2002; 11(2) 6. Pruitt K, Reiter B. “Biochemistry of peroxidase system: antimicrobial effects,” In Pruitt KM, Tenovuo JO, editors, The Lactoperoxidase System: Chemistry and Biological Significance, New York: Marcel Dekker, 1985; 144-78 7. Paulus H, Kwakman, et. al. “Medical-Grade Honey Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria In Vitro and Eradicates Skin Colonization,” Clin. Infect. Dis. 2008;46 (11): 1677-1682 8. Gheldof N, Engeseth N. “Antioxidant Capacity of Honeys from Various Floral Sources…” J. Agric. Food Chem. 2002; 50 (10):3050–3055
Personally, I keep a jar of honey at home and am now picking up an extra packet of honey each time I go to the restaurants that put honey in a packet out for us, then putting those packets in my cars’ first aid kits.
Powdered low-fat Milk lasts for 2-10 Years past the printed date (I don’t drink milk, but would in an emergency, I would trade it for something else if possible). Evaporated Milk lasts for 1 Year, Low Fat Skim Evaporated Milk lasts for 9 Months. Constituted milk lasts up to 3 days.
Protein powder (I snag the free samples in foil pouches when I can find it, then put those in my BOB, the large containers stay at home).
Cocoa powder lasts for 2 Years after printed date
Spices, powdered, last 2-3 years after printed date
Infant/Baby Formula Powder or liquid lasts until use by date
Packaged Tea (most kinds) lasts for 6-12 Months
Flour (most varieties) lasts for 6-8 Months, Corn Meal lasts for 9-12 Months
Cinnamon Sticks last for 2-3 Years Ground Cinnamon lasts for 6-12 Months
Dried Split Peas and Lentils (Dried) (with O2 absorbers) have Indefinite shelf life
Jelly Beans last for 1-2 Years, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans last for 8 Months, Gummy Candy last for 1 Year
Salt lasts indefinitely
Pepper Black lasts 2-3 Years ground or dried, 5-6 Years whole peppercorns
Instant Dry Potato Packages last for 1 Year
Granulated White Sugar, White Sugar Cubes, Raw Sugar, Sugar Substitutes, lasts Indefinitely. Brown Sugar, Powdered Sugar, Equal and Sweet n Low lasts for Indefinitely, but Best within 2 Years
Tip: If you are just starting out, you can use the plastic bottles that your soft drinks come in as a food grade storage container. Sure, they are small, but they are free since you already paid for them. Just look for the recycling symbol on he bottle, if it has a number one in the center of the recycle symbol and if it says PET or PETE under the recycle symbol then its food grade plastic. Just clean and dry it thoroughly then insert an oxygen absorber, your polished white rice or dry lentils and cap it up firmly. Try the bottles that have the taller caps, they have more threads and are more likely to maintain a good seal over the long haul. Its not ideal but its a a start until you can move up to 5 gallon food grade buckets.
Popcorn is listed as lasting indefinitely. I just don’t understand this. For decades I’ve enjoyed a variety of popcorn, from the stuff you buy jarred at the regular supermarket, the low cost bulk no-name offerings to the indecently expensive gourmet stuff. In my home, we actually wear out the popcorn maker because its literally used every day. Our biggest gripe about popcorn is that it dries out, loses moisture, gets tough and chewy and just doesn’t pop well. We always store our popcorn in sealed containers, so its not like we leave it exposed or in inappropriate containers, we don’t. It was a big surprise that I found popcorn to be listed as having indefinite life. I just don’t accept that as being functionally useful information. Maybe popcorn doesn’t go bad technically, but in my experience it loses its functional usefulness and I just won’t use it because it mostly won’t pop or won’t chew. By the way, ground corn flour and ground corn meal only lasts 6 to 9 months, so there’s nothing on the inside that will make it last longer. Some folks argue that the popcorn is a whole grain so the outer shell protects the moisture from escaping. I’d believe that except that each kernel has a huge whole in it where it used to be attached to the cob. I suspect that there are two things going on. First, maybe the for kernels technically haven’t gone “bad” although in reality they are mostly inedible. The second possibility is that popcorn that is still on the cob could actually be good indefinitely, I haven’t bought any for long term testing, but if any of you have tried any that are at least ten years old, let me know your results.
Will dry food packed in mylar with oxygen absorbers actually last? Is there really a difference?
Make Your Own MRE?
I don’t think so. I’ve seen all sorts of chatter on the Net about making your own MREs (Meals, Ready To eat), but its just not practical. Real MREs are sterilized and sealed in very high tech packaging, which the average person cannot duplicate at home.
MREs come in a “retort” pouch which is made of two layers of impervious plastic sandwiching a mylar layer that prevents oxygen penetration. If you think about it for a moment, then you’ll realize that each food item is actually protected by six layers of material because they are all placed inside the large external retort pouch. Then its sterilized with gamma radiation just to make sure that nothing is inside any of the pouches. We just can’t provide six layers of equivalent protection at home, even with one of those home vacuum sealer bag gadgets and we certainly have nothing to irradiate the food until its sterile at home. Vacuum sealers are great for making camping meals, that will be eaten this weekend, or even this summer, but folks, that just not what we are talking about here.
First of all, Top Ramen does not qualify as a home made MRE, and thats because because you didn’t actually make it, a corporation did. Second, its loaded with unbelievable amounts of salt (910 mg sodium for chicken flavor). I have no problem with salt, and I would eat a Top Ramen if I found it during a disaster situation but, there is so much salt that it would increase my water intake needs excessively. That is not a time when I need to find more water. Also, Top Ramen is not very nutritious, although you could probably survive for a while, its just not what I want to rely on in an emergency.
Dehydrated rice meals are also not home made MREs because you didn’t make this. Both Top Ramen and dehydrated rice meals belong in the dehydrated food category, and they should be at the bottom of that list (for low nutritional characteristics).
Spam in a pouch (i.e. SPAM® Single Classic) is also a poor choice. 730 milligrams of salt (sodium) per pouch is excessive. Same problem as Top Ramen. I do like the single servings in a pouch (no can opener and a lot lighter weight to carry) but its untested technology, we just have no proof that these pouches will last 20 years in storage. Canned Spam officially can lasts 2-5 years which is just a little too low for me to consider it a reliable survival food.
Sardines, canned. Again does not qualified as home made MRE because you did not cook or can it. In this case, I do like having sardines because they have the highest amount of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (the good fat) which your body and brain really needs, so you don’t get protein poisoning which can happen in survival situations. Unfortunately they only have a 12 month shelf life so they do not qualify as emergency food.
You already see the pattern here. Most people talking about home made MREs are actually doing nothing more than assembling prepackaged convenience food. This is not a good choice. These foods were never intended for long term storage. Our survival food must be capable of lasting very long periods of time unattended because most people forget about their emergency supplies, so vacuum packing a bunch of cheap dollar store snack foods will only give you poor nutrition, far too much salt, make you consume too much water and statistically they are likely to have been long expired before you get a chance to use them. Sure, its cheaper to pack your own “home made MRE”, but that is a trick that is performed on paper. Dollar store MREs can be assembled for around $3.50 as opposed to $5 and up for an equivalent authentic MRE. The catch is that by the end of the first year, the home made product has already expired, and the authentic MRE is still going strong for ten to twenty more years. Yes, I’ve eaten 15 year old MREs, it wasn’t bad, smelled good and reminded me of eating in the school cafeteria. Its not gourmet but you’ll survive just fine.
Getting proteins from animal flesh to last is very tricky, they just break down too quickly, you are better off cooking rice and beans which when eaten together deliver all the essential amino acids that your body needs to build muscle tissue, and when properly packaged, they can last 20+ years.
Beef (and other) Jerky, originally known as Pemmican, was invented by Native Americans long ago. Made by slowly drying whatever meat was caught that day, then pounded on a rock until it was almost a powder. Next, fat was blended in (along with berries that were pounded into powder, if available). This mixture was stored in rawhide pouches and eaten through tough winters.
Pemmican made at home lasts less time than store bought jerky. We just don’t have the machinery and practice to get the meat dry enough to prevent bacterial and mold growth. Sure, my Native American ancestors made Pemmican, and survived winters with it but we honestly don’t have their skill set when it comes to survival and living off the land, secondly, their Pemmican only had to last one winter, not ten or twenty years.
Protein bars, and other store bought items are in wrappers that are not designed nor certified for disaster storage. If you look carefully at the wrapper that an MRE or Millennium Bar come in, you’ll see that store bought candy or protein bars come in a very flimsy wrapper that are not oxygen barriers (at least not for the length of time that we need it to last for). MRE’s are also irradiated to kill bacteria, after they are sealed so its unlikely that any cooties could ever survive that process (this is needed because of the relatively high water content in an MRE).
The next mistake I see when folks are trying to make home made MREs, is that they just drop the items into a plastic or mylar bag to keep them dry. Its a good start because water is important for bacterial growth, but going back to the MRE example, we cam see that MREs are triple bagged to have maximum water, oxygen and light protection. Then they are irradiated. I can’t overstate that enough because unless you are a scientist or own a major food prep plant, you just don’t have the machinery to sterilize the product after you’ve installed the outer bag.
If you do decide to make your own home made MREs anyway, do try the home vacuum machines so your package will have almost no air in it, then drop into a mylar bag, vacuum and seal, then drop that into another vacuum bag, vacuum and seal lit. This is the closest you’ll get to duplicating an honest to goodness MRE. Don’t forget to drop a printout of the contents of each pouch, face out, so you will know at a glance what is inside.
I have no problem with not wanting to purchase MREs, the choice is yours. I’m just trying to point out here some of the false savings and false sense of security by not going with a scientifically designed and battle proven product. If you are on a severe budget, then I would simply increase my supply of long life foods that I already eat, and rotate them every time I go shopping. I did this in the seventies when I moved to a house in the Connecticut countryside, just in time for a blizzard so horrifyingly bad that the State’s Governer shut down travel on all roads.
During the Blizzard of 1977 only government emergency vehicles and snowmobiles were allowed to be on the roads. I had neither available to me and living out in the country, we only had one grocery store that was within walking distance. Its shelves were empty by the time I got home that day. For the next three days there were no food or water deliveries of any kind. Fortunately, I had stocked up on canned people food and canned dog food, which my dog and I subsisted on for the next three days, while the roads were closed. The morning of the fourth day I was out of food for both of us and convinced myself to face the blizzard and take a potentially hazardous walk that could take me many hours to complete. Fortunately, the governor lifted the ban that morning, the National Guard arrived and plowed the roads, so I was able to get to a supermarket downtown that had been resupplied and refresh my food supplies. That was a close one and I already knew back then that the old rule of thumb to have a three day emergency supply on hand was no where near enough.
I found that the canned foods worked quite well, my only limitation was that I did not have more than a three day supply, an oversight that I immediately corrected, but had the emergency been a day longer I would have been i severe trouble and I was already not wanting to eat the same salty canned food over and over again. A little variety goes a long way.
If you really want to assemble your own long term survival rations, think LDS, you can get good food in bulk from them inexpensively that lasts anywhere fro 5 to 30 years, depending on what you choose. (See LDS elsewhere in this guide).
Life is previous, don’t fool yourself with home made MRE’s, as we’ve seen, there pretty much is no such thing. Instead do your research, make a plan, implement it, review and refresh it regularly.
Anything canned or in a jar will last longer than fresh food, obviously, just be sure to have enough useful canned items on hand to serve as a food supply. Never risk eating product from dented cans, especially of the dent is near the seam of the lid, botulism poisoning can offer you a miserable painful death. These are the longer lasting ones: Canned Tuna lasts for 9-12 Months Vinegar (Shelf life indefinite) I like to sprinkle vinegar on the bland white rice to give it flavor. Maple syrup and corn syrup (Indefinite shelf life in their original air tight containers in the pantry) Soy sauce lasts indefinitely Peanut Butter lasts for 1 year Unopened Bottled Water lasts for 2+ Years (all other water lasts a lot less, opened water is good for three hours)
GORP for last chance survival. Good Old Raisins and Peanuts, or Gorp for short. The food of our Native American Indian forefathers, they had to survive winter before the time of refrigerators and supermarkets. Berries and nuts work because they contain the three core components of survival. The berries or fruit provide essential carbs and fiber; nuts give your body the fats and proteins for completing your meal.
The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer (2006); A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides) by Lee Allen Peterson and Roger Tory Peterson (1999), etc.
Is there anyone that actually enjoys eating the food listed above? No, not that I know of, which its often suggested that once a week or once a month you have one family meal rom the emergency supplies so that everyone can get accustomed to them and not suffer from appetite rejection.
I also think that you should find some comfort food that could provide solace during a stressful period. I don’t normally recommend trying to use food to balance your emotions but this is one of those times that some chocolate could go a long way to make you feel good. Its would also be a great barter item, just ask the ladies how they would like some nice chocolate on a rough day.
You’ll have to figure out for yourself which comfort foods could be stored for long periods of time and still be good and useful. If you find any, let me know, I’d like to add them to my own kit.